FORSYTH COUNTY — The finalists for Forsyth County’s 2015 Teacher of the Year are not short on unique and powerful stories.
Dawn James of Brookwood Elementary, Jennifer Davies of Vickery Creek Middle and Marlo Miranda of Forsyth Central High were surprised in their classrooms — or an assembly of the entire Central senior class — Wednesday morning with balloons, flowers and the news they had made the cut.
That cut, said Superintendent Jeff Bearden, came from 18 semifinalists and more than 2,000 teachers systemwide.
The finalists came to their profession in three different ways.
Brookwood’s James, a fourth grade teacher, was a platoon leader in a military police unit before practicing law “for many years.”
“I was pursuing passions but not dreams,” she said. “I needed to do something that made my heart feel inspired.”
She credited her husband for giving her the push to begin teaching.
“I took that leap of faith, and I’m really happy I did because I’ve never looked back since,” said James, seven years into being an educator.
The middle school level’s top teacher, Jennifer Davies, teaches P.E. and seventh-grade science at Vickery Creek. She found her calling during a ropes course while a student at the University of North Georgia.
“I became a P.E. teacher so I could have that opportunity to teach children those skills. Leadership skills and trust and commitment and dedication,” Davies said.
She has been at Vickery for 17 years. It marks her third time being named teacher of the year and second reaching the finalist stage.
Marlo Miranda, who teaches automotive technology, has been at Central since 2004 and simply cannot “imagine myself teaching anywhere else.”
He said he has visited automotive schools throughout the Southeast, and “every time I go somewhere and visit another school I always think how lucky I am to be at Central.”
“I’m only as successful as my students are,” Miranda said. “It’s a direct reflection of their work, their hard work and dedication. Everything they do makes me proud. I’m grateful for them.”
Miranda’s goal to positively affect the lives of his students was evident when Shelby Bowen shared her inspiration with the entire 2015 class.
Miranda convinced her to try out for the engine team, which recently placed second in the nation. The only girl on the team, she professed her gratitude for his support.
If they teach for different reasons, these three teachers also aim to instill three different values in their students. To follow their dream, even if that dream changes. To lead and commit. To treat each other like family.
“I’m a career changer,” Brookwood’s Jones said. “To all of those kids out there who may realize they want to do something different, that’s OK.”
For Vickery Creek’s Davies, “When a child learns something and gets it, that look on their face of accomplishment … it makes it all worth the while.”
Said Central’s Miranda as he stood with his wife and daughter: “One common goal is to have success for our students, and I’ve never seen any one place so dedicated to that cause. Walking up and down the halls at Central is like walking up and down the halls at home.”
Although they may all appear different in teaching strategies and their pasts, the common denominator, Superintendent Bearden said, is relationships.
“We are a people business. A relationship business. You can see in each ceremony the emotions, how much the kids think of their teachers,” Bearden said. “Our three finalists, they will represent us really well. It’ll be a tough decision. I’m glad I don’t have to make it.”